'Fringe' ratings up for finale: How the show survived

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The final episode of Fringe delivered the drama’s biggest audience of the season.

Sure, it still wasn’t very much. The two-hour series closer had only 3.2 million viewers and a 1.0 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, on par with its fourth season finale.

But that’s part of the Fringe story — a show Fox liked enough to keep on the air long past its ratings expiration date. In fact, Fox’s entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly has previous cited Fringe has the network’s make-up gift to the sci-fi community. Granted, one of his predecessors killed Firefly, but Fox let this fan-favorite play out. “Fringe has been a point of pride,” the executive once said. “I share the passion for the show the fans have. I love that Fox, after letting down genre fans over the years [came through with Fringe].”

There were, of course, other considerations for the show’s unusual longevity — a drama series surviving on a major broadcast network with a CW-sized overnight rating is no easy trick. Fox has really struggled on Fridays and needed to have something pulling a stable number, the show gained rather significantly from DVR playback (often gaining more than 60 percent), there’s a valuable relationship at stake with the show’s influential executive producer team (including J.J. Abrams), and the network was able to successfully make renewal deals with studio Warner Bros., which really wanted Fringe to hit that key five-season benchmark that helps sell a show into syndication (Science Channel picked up the rights to Fringe last year).

And creatively, Fringe was just a cool show that fans and critics felt passionately about. Sometimes, that makes a real difference. EW’s Ken Tucker gave last night’s finale a rave, saying Fringe “fulfilled nearly every promise it made to its audience over the course of five seasons. It remained true to its core values: the primacy of family, the sacredness of trust, the joy of a good joke, the exhilaration of intellectual inquiry, and the jolting power of love.”

Full Friday chart:

 ADULT DEMO RANK ADULT DEMO RATING  TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)
FOX 8-10P FRINGE S #9 1.0 3,208
ABC 8:00P LAST MAN STANDING #5 1.3 6,660
8:30P MALIBU COUNTRY #8 1.1 5,838
9-10P SHARK TANK R #3t 1.5 5,540
10-11P 20/20 #6t 1.2 4,382
CBS 8-9P UNDERCOVER BOSS #1 1.9 9,454
9-10P CSI: NEW YORK #2 1.6 10,605
10-11P BLUE BLOODS #3t 1.5 11,499
NBC 8-9P B.W.’S OFF THEIR ROCKERS RS #10 0.9 3,670
9-11P DATELINE #6t 1.2 5,097
CW 8-9P NIKITA #11 0.4 1,278
9-10P BEAUTY & THE BEAST RS #12 0.3 895
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